ITAB Silicon Valley Networking Trip Connects Students to the Tech World

While others may have spent the winter break skiing and reuniting with friends from high school, I devoted a good deal of time to purchasing a suit and, subsequently, wearing said suit – for I had the opportunity to participate in the CMC Information Technology Advisory Board (ITAB) networking trip to Silicon Valley.

From January 9th to 14th, eighteen CMC students met with numerous companies at the forefront of the technology industry, conversing with alumni and parents in the field and asking questions about work in the tech world. By working with alumni and parents in the field, Bart Evans ’70, Dr. Cynthia Humes, and Linda Tuthill developed an impressive itinerary, with stops at Applied Materials, Atlassian, Electronic Arts, EMC2, Facebook, Google, Intuit, KKR, Loud Dog, Microsoft, SunPower, and YouTube. Also planned were two dinner discussions one focused on entrepreneurship and the other on technology and its intersection with law.

The goal of the trip was to foster increased understanding of corporate culture in Silicon Valley and opportunities available to CMCers. While we might not all speak Java or C++, it quickly became apparent that companies were in search of more than just programmers. Leadership skills and a broad education were emphasized at each company we visited.

Each office offered a unique perspective on Silicon Valley. As we went through the itinerary, we effectively trekked a timeline of the area, seeing the amplified effects of time on technology companies. A morning at the well-established Microsoft proved far different from visits to the recent start-ups. The Microsoft interior was quiet and corporate, very much in contrast with the garage-like feel of Facebook and its quirky names for conference rooms. While one area’s conference rooms were dedicated to titles of popular YouTube videos (e.g., “I’m on a boat” and “Peanut Butter Jelly Time,”) the “international wing” was composed of conference rooms named after “countries with populations smaller than Facebook.”

We were able to meet with a number of people in different corporate positions throughout the trip. Whitney Tidmarsh ’88, CMO of EMC2, in particular, arranged for sessions on Product Marketing & Management, Products Overview, New Media in Marketing, Finance, and Engineering led by employees in the company. Throughout the course of the trip, we were exposed to a wide range of opportunities in the technology sector.

True to CMC form, lessons in leadership abounded! It was as if a whole semester of class were packed into the few days in Northern California. Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, spent an afternoon with us discussing his leadership style and his role models, while George Roberts ’66, founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., spoke about which books influenced him and contributed to his success as a leader.

After only a few corporate visits, it became quite apparent that, should I work for any of these companies, I would never go hungry again. While Google may be known for its 100 feet food rule, it is certainly not the only company hoping to entice the most talented workers with both savory and sweet snacks. Upon visiting Facebook, we were treated to “Nacho Wednesday,” a company favorite.

Armed with the knowledge that snack time continues post graduation, I began to feel increasingly more comfortable with my own impending departure from a school that I have positively reveled in attending. Throughout the trip, it was clear that the alumni network is vital in the Valley. Even recent graduates had successfully been indoctrinated into the ways of the technology world, having been hired by other CMCers at Atlassian, Google, and Loud Dog.

The ITAB trip is a reminder of the very reason that I chose to attend Claremont McKenna the myriad unique opportunities the College offers. In just under a week, I was able to wholly immerse myself in a possible career path. I enjoyed meeting with alumni of the College immensely, recounting stories and traditions known only to those who have spent collegiate years here. After a week as wonderful as this, it’s not hard for me to see why so many ITABers before me landed permanently in Silicon Valley.

Check out the group’s live tweets from the trip, the official Facebook page, and photos posted on our Flickr page.

–Katherine Wernet ’11